Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Discovering the wool

Dr. Elena A. Nikulina

The development of the coat of the wild sheep to a more woolly variety with less gouge hair took place in a long cultural-historical significant process. Some aspects of this process are possible to reconstruct using genetic methods.
Until now it is not known if the process took place several times and in parallel in different cultures or if the woolly sheep of Europe are the result of a unique breeding success. At the ZBSA we have begun a long term project to study the evolution of the hairy sheep to the woolly sheep. This study is based on genetic analyses of ancient DNA from sheep remains from archeological excavations.

The Soay sheep, a quite old breed (Figure: Arche Warder).

The Soay sheep, a quite old breed (Figure: Arche Warder).

The area of the wildforefathers of the house sheep is located in southwest Asia, in the hills near the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris. The domestication of wild sheep occurred about 8,000 B.C. Afterwards, the anthropogenic spreading of the house sheep from the southeast took place in the course of the Neolithic expansion in Europe, from 7,000 B.C. Only some thousand years after sheep domestication there is archaeozoological evidence for the use of sheep's wool.
At the ZBSA we are working on reconstructing the „discovery of wool“ by extensive archaeogenetic analyses of sheep remains from well-dated settlements. Several segments of the mitochondrial genome are examined from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age sheep remains.
The first results show a constantly low genetic diversity of the Stone Age and the Bronze Age sheep populations in Northern Europe and an increase of the genetic variability during the Iron Age. Future research will provide details to the history of wool’s discovery, which can be derived from the archaeogenetic data.

Document Actions
In Cooperation with


Prof. Dr. Linas Daugnora und Prof. Dr Algirdas Girininkas, Klaipėdos universitetas, Baltijos regiono istorijos ir archeologijos institutas, LIT

Prof. Dr. Lise Bender Jørgensen, Institutt for arkeologi og religionsvitenskap, Universitet Trondheim, NOR

Prof. Dr. Patrice Méniel, Université de Bourgogne, FRA

Prof. Dr. Wietske Prummel, ehem. Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, NL

Dr. Erich Pucher, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, AUT


Ingo Clausen und Ingo Lütjens, Archäologissches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein

Dr. Hans-Jürgen Döhle, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt

Prof. Dr. Hauke Jöns und Dr. Anette Siegmüller, Niedersächsisches Institut für Historische Küstenforschung, Wilhelmshaven

Dr. Ingrid Ulbricht und Dr. Sönke Hartz, Archäologisches Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein

TOPOI-Arbeitsgruppe ”The Textile Evolution”

Funded by

German Research Foundation

Unsere Webseite verwendet Cookies. Weitere Informationen. Einverstanden!